News Brief

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Educators from FL, MD, NH and WA are Finalists for Nation’s Top Teaching Honor

CCSSO Announces Four Finalists for National Teacher of the Year

For Immediate Release
Contact:  Kate Dando: /202-336-7034
Paul Ferrari: /202-312-6870


Educators from FL, MD, NH and WA are Finalists for Nation's Top Teaching Honor

CCSSO Announces Four Finalists for National Teacher of the Year


WASHINGTON - The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) announces today four finalists for the 2013 National Teacher of the Year. The National Teacher of the Year spends a year representing educators across the country and advocating on behalf of the teaching profession. The four finalists for National Teacher of the Year are:

Jeffrey Charbonneau -2013 Washington Teacher of the Year

Jeffrey Charbonneau is chemistry, physics and engineering teacher at Zillah High School in Zillah, Washington. He's been working in this position for his entire 11 year teaching career. Jeffrey has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and was a member of the William O. Douglas Honors College at Central Washington University, and holds a Masters of Education from Central Washington University. He is a National Board Certified teacher. He has received numerous awards, among them being various business donations and grants totaling more than $25,000 to support the ZHS Robot Challenge, of which he is founder and director. Jeffrey also participates as the Zillah Education Association Co-President. He recognizes that many students see his course subjects as the "hard" science classes and welcomes the challenge to overturn that stigma. In addition to his role as a science instructor at ZHS, Jeffrey is a yearbook advisor and drama assistant director. He also is an adjunct faculty member at three colleges and universities, allowing students who do take his classes to earn 24-college credits upon successful completion. Jeffrey admits his classes are "more rigorous" but says they are designed to be accessible. He's created interactive learning experiences, like the robot challenge, to help students develop confidence in their abilities. Jeffrey said, "I believe my greatest accomplishments are revealed each time a student realizes that he or she has an unlimited potential. The rest are simply vehicles to make it happen."

Rhonda Holmes-Blankenship - 2013 Maryland Teacher of the Year

Rhonda Holmes-Blankenship is a 10th and 11th grade English teacher at Rising Sun High School in North East, Maryland. She has 18 years of teaching experience and has been in her current position for 13 years. Rhonda received a Bachelor of Science in English from Towson University and received a Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction from McDaniel College. She serves in numerous professional leadership positions and currently is on a committee to develop English Language Arts Curriculum aligned with the Common Core Standards for Cecil County Public Schools. Candid about challenges during her own upbringing, Rhonda recognizes the important role that teachers and coaches have played in directing her to focus on education. She now sees her greatest contributions as helping her students "bridge the gap between their working class backgrounds and their college and career aspirations." She says that her student-teacher relationships transcend the confines of a semester, as she extends her role to assist with college or work applications and provides personal and academic encouragement. She said, "These relationships are especially important to at-risk students who feel more accountable when they know that a teacher they respect is looking out for them."

Alex Lopes - 2013 Florida Teacher of the Year

Alex Lopes is a pre-kindergarten special education teacher at Carol City Elementary School in Miami Gardens, Florida. He has been teaching for eight years and spent nearly all of that time in his current position. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and a Master of Science in Education from the University of Miami. In addition to his responsibilities inside the classroom, Alex has served as a speaker in various settings, including delivering a keynote address for the Student Teacher Orientation at Florida International University (FIU), where he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Special Education. He has also served as a research assistant in autism spectrum disorder studies at FIU. His experience includes serving as a project coordinator to develop and implement a partnership between Head Start teachers and pre-kindergarten educators who teach students with disabilities. He believes that a substantial number of his preschoolers, with and without autism, leave his classroom armed with either reading or the necessary phonological skills needed to excel in general education kindergarten classrooms.  Alex describes this as a transforming process for each of his students. Born and raised in Brazil, Alex is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish. Because he, himself, is an English language learner, he is fully aware of the challenges faced by his students from diverse backgrounds.  Alex likes to say his passion for education is only equaled by his love for learning.

Heidi Welch - 2013 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year

Heidi Welch is a 9-12 grade music teacher at Hillsboro-Deeing High School in Hillsboro, New Hampshire. With 16 years of teaching experience, Heidi Welch is a music teacher at Hillsboro-Deeing High School. She has been in her present position for 14 years. Heidi received a Bachelor of Music Vocal and French Horn focus from Keene College and a Master in Education Instruction and Curriculum from New England College. She is a member of various professional associations and activities, including chairperson and band manager of the Monadnock Valley Music Festival. In 2011, Heidi participated as Choral Guest Conductor for the Tri-town Music Festival in Milford, NH. That same year, Clear Channel Radio named her "Music Teacher of the Year" to conduct the Boston Pops. At a young age faced with personal challenges of her own, Heidi shares that many of her teachers offered compassion and direction - a path that ultimately led to a love for music. She said, "I knew that if music education allowed me to find myself as a student, instilled in me a passion for the arts and for learning, and gave me a chance to push myself in ways that I never thought possible, that it would surely do the same for the other young people trying to find there they fit." Heidi now shares that passion with her chorus and band programs, which have grown steadily in her tenure  at Hillsboro- Deering. All of her groups perform and participate in workshops at Disney World and has taken home first place trophies from several competitions throughout the country. However, Heidi says her greatest accomplishments are seen in the students' every day successes.

The National Teacher of the Year Program is run by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Every year states each select a teacher of the year to participate in the National Teacher of the Year Program. A panel representing 15 national education organizations, convened by CCSSO, chose the four finalists from the 2013 state teachers of the year. The selection committee then personally interviews each finalist and selects the National Teacher of the Year. In April the National Teacher will be announced by CCSSO. The President of the United States recognizes the National Teacher each year in a White House ceremony.

Learn more about the National Teacher of the Year program here.